Washington National Guard Communications Exercise Involves Use of 60 Meters


A Washington National Guard communications drill — “Exercise Vital Connection 2016” — that continues until April 3 is making use of the Amateur Radio 60 meter channels. The exercise includes participation by civil authorities.

“As part of our ramp-up to ‘Cascadia Rising 2016’ occurring in June, we have identified 60 meters as the most appropriate place for civil authorities to interface with our federal partners,” said Western Washington Section Manager Monte Simpson, AF7PQ, who is also Washington’s State RACES Officer. “Through discussion it was determined that because the federal government has the primary use of the 60 meter frequencies and Amateur Radio has secondary use, this is the perfect place for city, county, state, tribal, and federal entities to have interoperability.” Simpson said the five channels identified in the FCC Part 97 Amateur Service rules would serve as the primary frequencies for interoperability.

Simpson said that MARS, FEMA, and National Guard stations were likely to be communicating with local and state ARES/RACES stations during the exercise. “Scott Douglas, W7XC, our Official Observer Coordinator, received a call from an OO who was questioning the activity,” he told ARRL. “We were able to clarify for the OO that what was happening is legal.”

“Amateur Radio Service stations will continue to follow the guidance provided in §97.119 for station identification,” he added. “The participating MARS stations will follow their service’s rules for identification, and Washington National Guard stations will be using plain-English unit names for identification.”

Simpson added that he has been involved with the National Guard and helping the service to get radio amateurs for their communication units. “I couldn’t be more pleased with our Guard, which is truly trying to work with local and state agencies,” he said. “The Washington National Guard, J6, Communications Officer is very receptive to working with hams and making things happen.” He also said the FEMA Region X communicator has worked to incorporate ham radio into the interoperability picture and “has gone to bat for us.”

Simpson said he anticipates that the use of 60 meters for interoperability will become more common following this summer’s Cascadia Rising exercise.